Work on a 60-minute train trip between Wollongong and Sydney is long overdue, according to transport expert Philip Laird.
At least six years overdue.
“Infrastructure NSW in 2012 said we should be looking at 60-minute Sydney-Wollongong trains,” Prof Laird said.
“Here we are six years later, albeit under a different premier, and we’re still talking 60 minutes.”
On Tuesday NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced her government would investigate faster rail and high speed rail along four regional routes.
One of those was the “Southern Coastal Route" between Wollongong and Nowra.
Prof Laird said the announcement was “short on detail” and omitted the fact that the Newcastle line is already the subject of a joint state-federal study.
“It’s also lacking in interim improvements, track improvements that will help make the New Intercity Fleet run a bit faster than what the Oscars run at the moment,” he said.
Infrastructure NSW in 2012 said we should be looking at 60-minute Sydney-Wollongong trains.Associate Professor Philip Laird
READ MORE: Why Illawarra won’t be on fast-train route
Prof Laird said the Berejiklian government had been far less successful than its Victorian counterpart in getting rail funding.
“Victoria has attracted no less than $1.5 billion last year in federal funding to further improve five regional lines in Victoria,” he said.
“Aside from the $6 million for the Sydney-Newcastle business case we’re nowhere near that here.”
However, he did support putting high speed rail to the backburner in the Illawarra.
“It’s got its good points because it recognises that we might be better off going for faster rail in the shorter term rather than holding out for very fast rail, which requires 250km/h on dedicated track for part of the journey,” Prof Laird said.
“Even if you didn’t build the big tunnel you could look at going back to the 19th century alignment between Otford and Waterfall which is at least three kilometres shorter than what’s there today.”
He said the idea of high speed rail in the region was nothing new but it was telling that bigger projects hadn’t gotten off the ground yet.
“It’s been studied so often,” he said.
“It’s hard enough to get Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne off the ground, let alone Sydney-Wollongong.”